Distributions of All Shapes and Sizes

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In the very beginning, there was one distribution of Linux, known as MCC Interim Linux. Its singular status didn’t last long. Very soon, there were a handful of distributions. Today, nearly 18 years later, there are upwards of 200 distributions. No one knows the exact number, since new ones are being created every week, and old ones are being allowed to languish into obscurity.

Whatever the exact number, there are a lot of distributions out there, and they all fall into one of two categories: commercial (like RHEL) or noncommercial (like Fedora).

The commercial distributions exist for a pretty self-explanatory reason: someone, either a company or a group of developers, wants to make money. These distributions tend to be the most well-known of the Linux distributions, although they are not necessarily the most influential.

Distributions in this category include RHEL, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, Mandriva Linux, and Ubuntu Server. Those are the more commercially successful distributions; it is by no means a complete list.

Noncommercial distributions are generally run as not-for-profits, if they are well organized, or even as a hobby for one of a group of developers. The motivation for developers is varied. Some want to create something meaningful. Some do it to earn extra money. (Actually, some nonprofit distributions do receive some funding through voluntary support and donations.) Some want to have fun coding. Whatever the reason, developers have made noncommercial distributions very popular and extremely influential among all Linux developers.

Noncommercial distributions include Debian GNU/Linux, Slackware Linux, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and SimplyMEPIS. Just to give you an idea of how influential noncommercial distributions can be, know that SimplyMEPIS, Freespire, Linspire, and Xandros are among the many Linux distributions (commercial or otherwise) based on what has become the most popular noncommercial distribution today: Debian GNU/Linux.

Source of Information : Cengage-Introducing Fedora 2010

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